I love staying at a hotel soon after it opens.
So when I got invited to my friend Tommy’s 30th birthday celebrations in Portugal’s Algarve region this September, I absolutely had to take advantage of an opportunity to stay at the latest W property to open its doors in Europe — the W Algarve.
Without any further ado, let’s recap my stay at this amazing hotel.
The closest large town to the W Algarve is Albufeira — arguably one of the most popular European coastal resort towns for Brits.
Faro (FAO) Airport is the gateway to the Algarve which is served mainly by European low-cost airlines and a handful of legacy carriers like Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia, and TAP Air Portugal.
However, there is a single nonstop service from North America operated by Canadian carrier Air Transat from Toronto (YYZ). It operates year-round on Tuesdays, and the lowest round-trip fares I’ve found start at $438.
Alternatively, you should be able to find convenient 1-stop itineraries from many major cities across the U.S. on large network carriers.
Given United’s recent European expansion, it wouldn’t surprise me if the airline decided to tap into the Portuguese leisure market sometime soon.
There’s a bus service that takes passengers between Albufeira and the airport which will cost you around $8 each way. From there, you’d have to hop in a taxi to take you to the hotel. You could also jump in a taxi at the airport. You can expect to pay around $45 for the 30-mile journey to the hotel.
I’m always tempted by Marriott’s “Prepay and Save” option as you can end up saving a significant chunk of money by booking this way.
I could have saved €55 (~$53) per night — or about $212 in total — if I’d paid in advance. But in this day and age, I’d rather pay a little bit more for the peace of mind of not being charged should unforeseen circumstances arise that would require me to cancel my trip.
I decided to go for the “Member Opening Offer” of €469 (~$463) per night.
I always check out the terms and conditions of my rate to make sure I’m up to speed with all that my booking entitles me to. Note the €75 (~$75) hotel credit.
Once I’d made my booking, I scrolled down the page and saw the following message:
I already had in mind that I’d use some of my Suite Night Awards for this stay, so of course, I clicked Start Upgraded Request.
Hot Tip: Suite Night Awards are available as a Choice Benefit to those Marriott Bonvoy Elite members that complete 50 and 75 Qualifying Nights annually.
I was greeted with no fewer than 6 options for applying my Suite Night Awards. I selected the top 3 in hopes of getting at least 1 of those, and not just a slightly upgraded room.
And just like that, my request was made.
I secured my room with my U.K.-based Marriott Bonvoy® American Express® Card which would earn me 6x Marriott Bonvoy points on every £1 spent when I checked out.
While this card doesn’t exist in the U.S., there are a bunch of U.S.-based Marriott Bonvoy co-branded credit cards to choose from, including the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card that would have earned me a whopping 17x points per dollar spent on this stay!
Back to my Suite Night Upgrades — I’d never used this perk before, so I had no idea whether it would pay off.
But it did — and then some. Five days before I was due to check in, I received the email below confirming that not only had I been upgraded, but I’d been awarded my second preference: A Marvellous 2-bedroom Residence.
I literally could not wait to arrive.
There’s no mistaking where you are when you pull up outside the property.
My bags were whisked from the trunk and onto a luggage cart almost instantly upon arrival.
I hadn’t even stepped into the building and already had a good feeling about this place.
I stepped across the welcome mat for the first time and saw that the ostentatious glam I find to be a little too much for my taste in some W hotels was nowhere to be seen.
Instead, I was welcomed by an effective, modern design employing straight lines juxtaposed against dramatic curves, and a classy and cool array of stony greys contrasted against a splash of blues, aquas, and turquoises — a quintessential Portuguese color palette.
Before heading to the front desk, I was distracted by the offer of a welcome drink. My original plan was to head to the gym to sweat out some of the sins of a few late nights of drinking, but I just couldn’t resist a freshly poured glass of bubbles.
Drink in hand, I passed the main entrance opposite the gorgeous display of colored plates and headed to the end of the corridor for check-in.
My “Marvellous Residence” wasn’t quite ready, which was to be expected given my late-morning arrival. At least for once, thanks to my Suite Night Awards, I didn’t have to ask if my Marriott Bonvoy status had afforded me an upgrade.
I headed out to sit by the pool for a couple of hours before going back to reception around 3 p.m. to find that my room was indeed ready for me.
From relaxing at the beach and getting your morning workout in at the gym to indulging in a spa treatment and splashing around in the pool, the W Algarve has you covered.
The W doesn’t have a private beach, but there is direct access through the hotel’s grounds to one of the Algarve’s many cute rocky inlet beaches.
Signs will point you in the right direction from the main hotel.
A short walk downhill in the glorious sunshine will lead you to Praia do Evaristo. There you’ll find a restaurant — also named Evaristo — and sun loungers with palapas available to rent.
I only headed down for a brief moment, but it looked like a nice place to relax if prefer the beach to the pool.
Be prepared to break a sweat on the uphill journey back to the hotel. Come to think of it, I’m sure you could arrange for a buggy to come and pick you up.
If keeping fit and active while traveling is important to you, you’ll appreciate the gym at the W Algarve.
Rather than a regular rope pulley machine, the W opted for a kinesis machine.
And the hotel switched out regular treadmills for the type that controls the speed according to how fast you run.
There was an array of weight-lifting equipment …
… including a Smith machine …
… and a decline bench — rarely found in a hotel gym.
The set of dumbbells with a maximum weight of 22 kilograms (48.5 pounds) was better than nothing.
The space outside could be used for individual workouts in the open air …
… as well as trainer-led group workouts that happened at various times throughout the day.
Oh, and I’m sure that the views of the hotel, water fountain, and grounds stretching down to the sea are leagues above the view from your gym at home.
The W Algarve offers complimentary on-site valet parking to guests, excluding any tips you may choose to leave.
In true W style, and just like the rest of the hotel, the pool was a truly unique space where I loved hanging out. I relaxed there during the weekend, worked for a couple of hours during the weekday, and ate lunch at the poolside restaurant. More on that later.
The pool is split into an upper and lower level that are separated by this infinity-style waterfall.
The shape of the pool and even the hotel’s structure echo the same curved design that I touched upon earlier. A nod to the sea? Perhaps, but it’s certainly pleasing to the eye.
Bright pink towels were laid neatly on the loungers each morning.
Should I have needed more towels throughout the day, towel and water stations were positioned in various locations on the pool deck.
The pool was pretty even under overcast skies.
Thankfully, it wasn’t cloudy every day and I got to spend some downtime in the sunshine.
Wi-Fi was readily available throughout the hotel and worked fine even when I was by the pool. I had no issues downloading, uploading, or streaming content.
The Room — My ‘Marvellous Residence’
At first, when I found out I’d been upgraded to a “residence” instead of a suite, I was disappointed given that I’d used 4 of my precious Suite Night Awards.
What I failed to remember, though, was that the Marvellous Residence I had bid for was a higher room category than a suite. So my slight disappointment led to shock and awe when I entered my room for the first time.
I walked around, jaw on the floor, for at least 10 minutes while taking in all the marvellousness that was to be my residence for the next 4 nights.
Of all the “pinch me” moments I’ve had in this job, this was up there in the top 5 for sure.
The Master Suite
I’ll start with my sleeping quarters — the Master Suite. It featured a huge bed as the centerpiece of the spacious room.
Rather than a headboard, an intricately decorated glass window and a shelf with a couple of lamps, bottles of water, a telephone, and an alarm clock that had an annoyingly loud “tick” separated the bed from the bathroom.
The fish-shaped pillow added a dash of color and even more personality to the room.
Opening the electric blinds every morning revealed this view out across the hotel grounds to the Atlantic Ocean in the distance. Bliss.
The bedroom and half of the bathroom occupied the same space.
However, doors still separated the huge shower room and water closet in the name of privacy.
The minimalist, almost brutalist-style walk-in shower was bigger than my entire bathroom at home.
It had both a rainfall and regular shower head.
I loved the stunning blue-and-white tile mosaic that poured down one of the walls and across the floor like a waterfall.
You’ll notice the requisite hotel robe hanging up, too.
At the double vanity were all the amenities you could wish for from a hotel bathroom — apart from a full-length mirror. There was only a small pull-out circular mirror, which would have been great for makeup application but not ideal for a full outfit check before heading out to dinner.
Towels were folded and hidden away neatly in drawers.
Face towels, MOMO shower gel, shampoo, and conditioner, as well as beauty products by the brand /skin regimen/ were displayed on a small amenity box.
Inside the drawer were a make-up removal pad, a shaving kit, a nail and shower kit, and a dental kit.
The vegetable hand soap was also by /skin regimen/.
Also at the sink were 2 further complimentary bottles of water that were replenished each day. More hotels need to take a leaf out of the W’s playbook and ensure that all their complimentary water bottles are made from more sustainable materials than plastic.
In the evenings there was a turndown service that included chocolates left on the pillow. The fact that I only ate half of one on the first night says a lot about the quality.
Not shown is the huge walk-in closet area right at the far corner of the bedroom.
The ‘Guest Room’
What “residence” would be complete without a second bedroom? It was just off the kitchen area close to the front door. I named it the “guest room,” and it proved to be perfect for my friend Jean and his husband Maui who stayed there for 3 of the 4 nights.
They enjoyed their own private space that had ample storage and as equally a stunning design as the master suite.
Attached was a bathroom that boasted all the same amenities as I had in my bathroom …
… including, of course, a never-ending supply of glass bottles of water.
The mirror game in this bathroom was far better than in my master suite.
The Living Space
I wouldn’t be surprised if the stunning open-plan living space in the Marvellous Residence was almost as big as my entire 2-bedroom apartment in Newcastle, U.K.
The huge L-shaped sofa was placed right in front of the sliding doors that led to the terrace and stunning views of the sea.
Or you could choose to cozy up and stream a show to the sleek flat-screen TV.
The design of the space was very easy on the eye. I enjoyed the green-and-blue-striped cushions that added the perfect pop of color.
In the middle of the room was a long work-station-breakfast-bar-combo that had a couple of stools.
This connected to the full kitchen that came equipped with everything you’d need to cook a proper feast, including an electric stove top and a dishwasher.
The non-chilled contents of the minibar were on display on the countertop, making it all the more tempting to snack.
If the 2 ensuite bathrooms weren’t enough, there was a small powder room located at the entrance to the Residence.
Last, but certainly not least, let’s check out the terrace.
I spent many enjoyable moments out here.
I’d head out here first thing in the morning to swing in the seat while sipping on an espresso and completing my daily Duolingo lessons.
And at regular points throughout the day I’d find myself just gazing out toward the sea.
And the sunsets were extraordinary.
As darkness fell, the scenery changed again with the lights and colors of the pool taking center stage against the dusk sky.
If it weren’t for the mosquitoes, I’d have probably slept out here.
The terrace was also extremely private — neighboring rooms couldn’t see in.
Food and Beverage
If you like good food, you’ll like the W Algarve — especially the breakfast.
Breakfast: 7 a.m. to 11 a.m
Lunch: 12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Dinner: 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. (except Tuesdays and Wednesdays)
The W’s signature restaurant — Market Kitchen — is situated on the lower ground level.
As with the rest of the hotel, the design of the space was just stunning.
You could choose to sit inside one of the bright yellow seats.
Or, if you prefer alfresco dining, you could pick a seat outside on the terrace.
If you love your breakfast as much as me, you’ll love the breakfast down at Market Kitchen.
For starters, it had the biggest selection of fruit I can recall from all the hotels I’ve stayed at.
I loved to start my day with a colorful bowl of fruit.
In addition to the usual suspects at a breakfast buffet, like cereals, pastries, and cold cuts, there were a couple of items worth a special shout-out.
First up is the pumpkin jelly. Not only is it delicious, but “abóbora” is a great word to say.
The W served up fresh pastel de nata — the most popular Portuguese pastry that you must try if you’re in Portugal.
I also want to highlight this sourdough that hit the spot every morning.
The hot buffet options didn’t disappoint either.
The fluffy American-style pancakes also hit the spot …
… as did this delightful shakshuka.
A chef was on hand each morning to serve up eggs any style. You could order with your server or directly with the chef.
The egg-white omelet was a particular favorite. The lovely Lay from Bahia, Brazil, was particularly good at making them.
If you’re celebrating, carrying on from the night before, or just fancy it, there was sparkling wine available on ice. You could have it straight up or combine it with orange juice to make a refreshing mimosa.
Once breakfast is over, the buffet setup on the bar top is removed and the stools are put back.
Dinner: 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. (Wednesday through Sunday)
Paper Moon is the W Algarve’s restaurant that’s located on the top floor above the gym.
On your way, you’ll pass through Sea Sky — the hotel’s rooftop terrace bar.
When the sky is clear, Sea Sky is likely the best spot in the hotel to watch the sunset.
Inside, Paper Moon is a beautifully decorated bar with a top-shelf liquor selection.
Much like the rest of the hotel, there was nothing other than great things to be said about the aesthetic and design of Paper Moon.
I dined here with my friends — and we went a little wild with our order.
To start, we shared a selection of bread.
This was followed swiftly by a garlic truffle pizza which we demolished in no time at all.
For mains, Maui was craving pasta so he went for the clam spaghetti, also known as spaghetti alla vongole.
Jean and I decided we’d share the salt-encrusted fish of the day, which was seabass.
It was brought to our table, delicately de-boned, and then served up for our enjoyment. And enjoy it we did.
To accompany our fish, we ordered sides of mashed potatoes, spinach, and grilled veggies.
I don’t know exactly how much the bill came to as I was treated by my lovely friends, so here’s a link to the menu so that you can get an idea of prices.
Sometimes when I travel all I want to do to curl up with a room service meal and Netflix.
I usually keep it simple with my orders and avoid meat, where possible, so dishes like this spaghetti with pomodoro sauce are my usual go-to options.
I thought the pasta was a great value at €14 (~$14), however, the €8 (~$8) in-room dining charge … not so much. With a tip, I laid out €26 (~$26) for a bowl of spaghetti. That might not seem like a lot in U.S. dollars, but that’s a very expensive bowl of pasta in British pounds (which, as you probably know, has taken a shellacking recently).
Sip @ Wet Deck
As I didn’t stray far from the hotel during the day, I enjoyed my lunches on the Wet Deck, the W Algarve’s poolside bar/restaurant.
My favorite spot was this table right on the edge of the pool.
The menu was a simple yet sufficient selection of quick bites, sandwiches, and bowls.
I highly recommend the poké bowls.
I’m a cheesecake lover and I caved when need of a sugar-fueled pick-me-up. The thick crust did not disappoint.
Finally, there’s the W Lounge — a lobby bar serving all the drinks in addition to light bites.
Just look at those hanging light fixtures and decorations.
As for the main inside seating area, I couldn’t get enough of the aesthetic.
I particularly enjoyed the detail in the stained-glass structure that was suspended like wings over some of the seating options.
Here’s a close-up for even more appreciation.
A door from the main bar led out onto the outside part of the W Lounge.
Out there, you’ll find another bar with plenty of seating.
There’s also a selection of high-top tables.
Hotel Grounds and Design
It would have been a disservice had I just weaved in my snaps of the W’s decor and design into the review itself as I normally do. I had to give a final shout-out to the beautiful design and architecture of this space.
Even just pulling up the driveway is a feast for the eyes — especially at night.
Given the newness of the hotel, the trees that were planted in the gardens of the ground floor rooms have a little more growing to do before they provide the privacy they’re intended for.
I was obsessed with this curved facade.
And just look at these quintessential Portuguese tiles.
Even the door handles were a cut above the rest.
I loved every single interaction I had at the W Algarve. I even ran into the General Manager, Cajaetan Araujo, in the gym. I told him that he should be so proud of the team he has working in his hotel. And it’s clear from my interactions with hotel staff that they love their jobs and genuinely want to be there.
I had barely settled in before I heard a knock on the door. I opened it to find 2 W staffers who were excited to present me with the bottle of sparkling wine I requested as my welcome gift, as well as an additional platter of chocolates and a cute welcome card.
I should probably say at this point that this welcome treatment was because of my Marriott Bonvoy Titanium Elite status and not because I had informed the hotel before arriving that I would be coming to review my experience.
Things got off to a great start with André who checked me in.
And I want to give a huge “thank you” to another André. He took the W’s “Whatever Whenever” mantra to the next level by heading out and getting me the açaí that I was craving even though the hotel didn’t serve it. Every hotel needs an André — or multiple Andrés.
Make sure to look out for João, too.
I also enjoyed a daily turndown complete with chocolates.
But before I finish, I have 1 more thing to mention regarding housekeeping.
Whenever I check in to a hotel now, I request that my towels and sheets aren’t changed during my stay. Reducing housekeeping is something we can all do to help minimize our carbon footprint when traveling.
Anyway, for the first 2 days, I had my request granted. However, on the third (and penultimate) morning, I came back to my room to find that the sheets were being cleaned.
I’m sure this is just hotel protocol and that my request probably got lost with the changing of staff, but I think hotels could do more to persuade their guests (or at least give them the option) to opt-out of daily housekeeping.
The W Algarve encapsulates everything I look for in a hotel: attention to detail, uniqueness, authentically friendly staff, great food, bedrooms I want to copy and paste into my apartment, and value for money.
A stay at the W doesn’t come cheap, but you get a lot for your cash.
I currently have no plans to head back to Portugal this year, but I will make sure I incorporate a visit into my 2023 plans solely to stay at this W again.
The information regarding the Marriott Bonvoy® American Express® Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and was not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.